2017 Ford Explorer Top Complaints and Problems – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Fuel system, steering, structure and electrical issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

This article was written by Brian Jones, trusted ASE Certified Master Tech and Lemberg Law Expert Automotive Contributor

Do you remember back when the Ford Explorer was nicknamed the Exploder? While it sounds funny, it just goes to prove that this SUV has a storied history of problems. Ford claims that the latest model lineup is “Confident Inside& Out,” but we can’t agree with that assessment on the 2017 Explorer. In fact, drivers regularly face exhaust fumes in the cabin, steering issues and structure pillars coming loose.

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Other / Fuel System

One of the biggest complaints with the Explorer is a strong smell of fuel in the cabin. This is one thing that you shouldn’t ever experience unless you get some gas on your shoe at the pump.

One person wrote this on the NHTSA website, “Driving on Interstate and smelled a strong odor and fumes. No cars or trucks were in front of me and I could not figure out where the odor was coming from. Later in the 3-hour drive, got very sleepy and dizzy.Stopped at rest area for fresh air. This has never happened to me before. Now afraid to drive this expensive vehicle on these trips to take care of grandchildren. Called dealership and was told no recalls and nothing they could do. Purchased this vehicle for driving long distances and now afraid to drive it and my son will not let our grandchildren ride in it. Cannot sell it because I would lose so much money. A recall should be issued since numerous complaints have been made from others with the same issues.”

This person is correct – a lot of complaints were filed. Some people even ended up in accidents as a result of getting dizzy and tired. The automaker has issued plenty of other recalls for situations less critical than this, but they’ve remained quiet on the fuel front. After more than 120 manufacturer communications, we would have thought this would have come up somewhere. Maybe the executives have breathed in too many fumes.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2017 Ford Explorer Exhaust Fume Problems:

TL* THE CONTACT OWNS A 2017 FORD EXPLORER. WHILE THE VEHICLE WAS BEING DRIVEN, AN ODOR OF FUEL EMITTED THROUGH THE VENTS OF THE VEHICLE. THE ODOR CAUSED THE DRIVER TO HAVE A SEVERE HEADACHE THAT REQUIRED MEDICAL ATTENTION. THERE WAS NO WARNING INDICATOR ILLUMINATED.

THERE WAS A COOLANT LEAK INTO THE HEATER BOX WHICH CAUSE THE HEATER CORE TO FAIL AND THEN IT BEGAN FILLING THE DRIVER’S SIDE OF THE CABIN WITH COOLANT FUMES FOR TWO MONTHS. THE VEHICLE SHOULD HAVE NEVER LEFT COURTESY FORD HERE IN PORTLAND OR. IT WENT BACK THREE TIMES FOR THIS ISSUE. IF THEY WOULD HAVE CONTACTED FORD MOTORS THEY COULD AND HAD THE KNOWLEDGE OF THIS MAJOR FAILURE HAPPENING. BREATHING IN COOLANT AND BEING TOLD IT’S OKAY. IT ISN’T IS IT? PLEASE HELP.

CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING. UPON DRIVING THE VEHICLE TO WORK, I NOTICED I WAS VERY TIRED AND WAS FIGHTING TO KEEP MY EYES OPEN. I DOZED OFF MULTIPLE TIMES AND ALMOST HIT SOMEONE HEAD ON. THIS HAPPENED FOR MONTHS. I THEN NOTICED I STARTED HAVING HEADACHES AND COULD NOT FOCUS ON MY COMPUTER AT WORK. I INSTALLED A CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR IN MY VEHICLE AFTER HEARING ABOUT THE “POTENTIAL” ISSUE, AS THE DEALERSHIP CALLED IT. THE DETECTOR REGISTERED 12-16 PPM’S MOST DAYS. I’M HORRIFIED TO THINK ABOUT THE EXPOSURE I’VE HAD FOR THE LAST 2.5 YEARS. I TOOK THE VEHICLE INTO FORD TO CORRECT THE “POTENTIAL” ISSUE. A FEW DAYS AFTER PICKING IT UP, THE DETECTOR WENT OFF AGAIN, REGISTERING 10 PPM’S. I WAS ON A 2.5 HOUR TRIP HOME AND HAD TO ROLL THE WINDOWS DOWN 6 TIMES BECAUSE THE DETECTOR KEPT GOING OFF.

Steering

If you keep your wits about you with the gas smell, it’s always helpful to retain control of the vehicle by using the steering wheel. That becomes a problem when the steering system starts to fail.

Read what this user wrote on the NHTSA website, “At around 35,800 miles, I noticed a slight jerk of the steering wheel when going around curves. I was going 70mph on the highway for a quick afternoon trip out of town. On the way home (36,000 miles), it was doing this even when driving straight. I had my husband drive it when I got back and that’s when we decided to get it to the nearest dealership (45 miles away). The whole rack and pinion steering column was severely corroded and needed to be replaced. I was without my vehicle for over a month while Ford gave us the runaround on whether or not it would be covered.”

Interestingly enough, Ford did issue a recall related to steering issues. Designated with NHTSA Campaign Number 17V530000, it turns out that the steering gear heat shield fasteners may corrode which causes the heat shield to detach. When this happens, drivers have a harder time steering and might end up crashing. This wasn’t just on the 2017 Ford Explorer, but also on the Police Interceptor Utility. We wonder how many criminals got away during chases when the cop couldn’t steer the vehicle.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2017 Ford Explorer Steering Problems:

WHILE DRIVING 60 MPH MY STEERING WHEEL SEIZED COMPLETELY, A BELL STARTED RINGING, AND AN INDICATOR LIGHT ON MY DASHBOARD STARTED FLASHING THAT STEERING FAILED. PLEASE PARK SAFELY. THERE WAS NO WARNING AND MY CAR HAD BEEN WORKING PERFECTLY BEFORE THIS HAPPENED. THIS CAUSED SERIOUS THREAT OF COLLISION AND GRAVE BODILY DAMAGE/DEATH.

DRIVING ONE DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND POWER STEERING LOCKED UP BRIEFLY INTERMITTENTLY, WITH THE ERROR MESSAGE. TURNED CAR OFF AND ON AGAIN AND WAS FINE, LATER ON IN THE DAY POWER STEERING LOCKED UP FOR GOOD AND THE ERROR MESSAGE IS ALWAYS THERE.

REAR SUSPENSION TOE LINK RECALL: DRIVING APPROXIMATELY 50 MILES/HR WITH MY HUSBAND BEHIND THE WHEEL AND MYSELF AND OUR 3 CHILDREN IN THIS FAMILY VEHICLE, THIS REAR SUSPENSION BROKE. WE LIVE IN RURAL SALINE COUNTY AND DRIVE GRAVEL DAILY. THE INCIDENT HAPPENED WHILE ENTERING A BRIDGE ON A HIGHWAY. WE LOST ALMOST COMPLETE CONTROL OF STEERING REQUIRING THE DRIVER TO COMPLETELY TURN THE WHEEL AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE IN ONE DIRECTION AND TURN BACK AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE IN THE OTHER SWERVING AND FORCEFULLY CIRCLING BACK AND FORTH ON A BRIDGE UNTIL THE VEHICLE FINALLY CAME TO A STOP FURTHER DOWN THE ROAD. GOD’ GRACE ALONE SAVED US FROM GOING OVER THE BRIDGE, OR HITTING ONCOMING TRAFFIC OR HAVING INJURIES, POTENTIALLY FATAL AT THIS RATE OF SPEED AND LOCATION. I AM DISSATISFIED IN THE NOTIFICATION OF RECALL INFORMATION FROM THE DEALER AND NHTSA. I ONLY FOUND OUT WHAT MUST HAVE HAPPENED AFTER GOOGLING ‘FORD EXPLORER’ AND SEEING A NEWS POST 2 DAYS EARLIER. THE NOTIFICATION OF THE RECALL WILL COME MUCH TOO LATE IN THE MAIL IN THE NEXT COUPLE WEEKS. TOO LATE! THERE HAS GOT TO BE A BETTER, FAST WAY OF NOTIFYING DRIVER SO THE RECALL PARTS MORE TIMELY. WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY. PUT YOUR FAMILY IN THIS SITUATION AND SAY THIS WAY OF NOTIFYING THE CONSUMER IS ADEQUATE!

Structure

One of the things you never think about while driving is how solid the construction is. Sure, you worry about the mechanics of a vehicle and hope they don’t fail, but what about the metal surrounding you. Sadly, with the 2017 Ford Explorer, this is something you better consider.

One writer on the NHTSA website wrote, “The driver and passenger A-pillar covers are coming off.”

Other people discussed them melting while further complaints discussed them falling off completely. While there were no recalls for this issue, even though there should have been, we did find some other structural problems. Recall labeled NHTSA Campaign Number 17V332000 reports that the seat back frame might not restrain occupants because it has inadequate welds. It seems like it doesn’t matter what part of the structure you’re worried about; it’s not going to protect you.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2017 Ford Explorer Structure Problems:

TL* THE CONTACT OWNS A 2017 FORD EXPLORER. WHILE DRIVING APPROXIMATELY 65 MPH, THE KEYLESS ENTRY PAD ON THE EXTERIOR OF THE DRIVER’S DOOR FRACTURED AND FELL OFF INTO TRAFFIC. SIMULTANEOUSLY, THE “LIFTGATE AJAR” MESSAGE ILLUMINATED. THE CONTACT STOPPED AT A NEARBY FUEL STATION AND ATTEMPTED TO CORRECT THE FAILURE BY APPLYING MASKING TAPE TO RE-ATTACH THE KEYLESS ENTRY PAD TO THE DOOR. THE CONTACT STATED THAT SEVERAL WIRES WERE EXPOSED IN THE PROCESS

TRIM PIECES ON EITHER SIDE OF FRONT WINDSHIELD FLEW OFF WHILE IN MOTION DRIVING DOWN THE INTERSTATE. BOTH SIDES CAME DETACHED DURING TWO SEPARATE INCIDENTS ABOUT A MONTH APART FROM EACH OTHER. DURING ONE INCIDENT  THE TRIM PIECE FLEW OFF OF MY CAR AND STRUCK ANOTHER VEHICLE IN THEIR FRONT WINDSHIELD. DURING THE OTHER INCIDENT, THE TRIM PIECE CAUSED A CAR BEHIND ME TO SWERVE TO AVOID THE DEBRIS WHICH IS DANGEROUS AND COULD HAVE POTENTIALLY CAUSED A MUCH WORSE ACCIDENT.

Electrical

Finally, we take a look at the electrical system on the 2017 Ford Explorer. Among the many complaints that occur with this SUV, one involves a faulty display center.

The NHTSA website reports a claim made for a user. It states, “The contact owns a 2017 Ford Explorer. The contact stated that the Bluetooth disconnect and the GPS and temperature sensors were unresponsive. There were no warning indicators illuminated. The local dealer was not contacted. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was contacted and did not assist. The failure mileage was 50,000.”

The company did have something to say about electrical system failures. In manufacturer bulletin #SSM 48053, they discuss various performance troubles with display systems. It seems the malfunction can lead to faulty display operations, phone pairing, Travel Link, Applink, navigation and a slow system response. To remedy the problem, all equipment needs to be updated to the latest software. While this is a nuisance, it’s nothing compared to the other problems we’ve seen with this Ford SUV. Hopefully, users don’t experience carbon monoxide poisoning, failing structures and a lack of steering. If those issues don’t become evident, you might be able to deal with some glitchy electronics and count yourself as one of the lucky ones.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2017 Ford Explorer Electrical Problems:

TL* THE CONTACT OWNS A 2017 FORD EXPLORER. THE CONTACT STATED THAT THE BLUETOOTH DISCONNECTED AND THE GPS AND TEMPERATURE SENSORS WERE UNRESPONSIVE. THERE WERE NO WARNING INDICATORS ILLUMINATED. THE LOCAL DEALER WAS NOT CONTACTED. THE VEHICLE WAS NOT DIAGNOSED OR REPAIRED. THE MANUFACTURER WAS CONTACTED AND DID NOT ASSIST. THE FAILURE MILEAGE WAS 50,000.

AFTER THE 2017 FORD EXPLORER SPORT WAS STARTED, THE INSTRUMENT PANEL WAS BLANK, THE CLIMATE WOULD NOT WORK, THE WIPERS, BLINKERS, WINDOWS, ETC. WOULD NOT OPERATE. I TRIED RESTARTING THE VEHICLE MULTIPLE TIMES TO SEE IF THE PROBLEM WOULD CORRECT ITSELF AND IT DID NOT. I CONTACTED THE FORD DEALERSHIP AND THEY ASKED ME TO DROP IT OFF. IT WAS POURING DOWN RAIN AND I COULD BARELY SEE TO DRIVE SINCE THE WIPERS WOULD NOT WORK. I COULD NOT BLINKER TO TURN. THANKFULLY, I ONLY HAD TO DRIVE ABOUT A MILE TO THE FORD DEALERSHIP. THE CAR HAS ONLY 21,000 MILES ON IT. UNFORTUNATELY THIS IS NOT THE FIRST ISSUE WITH THIS BRAND NEW EXPLORER. THE BATTERY WAS REPLACED AT 18,000 MILES BECAUSE IT HAD CORRODED. THE TIRES ARE ALL TEARING. I REALLY LIKE THE VEHICLE, JUST ASHAME THESE VEHICLES ARE NOT BUILT WITH QUALITY MATERIALS. I PAID 46,000 FOR WHAT I CONSIDER A LUXURY VEHICLE. FORTUNATELY THIS IS ALL UNDER WARRANTY.

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